Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The History of South Carolina, From Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into a Republic >> Chapter IV >> Page 37

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Page 37

History | S. Babcock & Co. | 1840
these were effective. The heavy ships which had fled
before Melendez, joined him, and the French commander
proceeded south, with almost certain assurances of suc-
cess. He found the fleet of Melendez without its com-
plement of men, who were on shore, and moored in a
situation that seemed to make its fate inevitable. Two
hours would have sufficed for its destruction, and would
have placed in the hands of Ribault sufficient means for
the annihilation of his enemy ; but one of those sudden
tempests, so common in those latitudes, suddenly arose,
baffled his hopes, and drove his vessels down the gulf of
Florida. The storm lasted from the first week in Sep-
tember to the beginning of the following month, and in
that time the ships of Ribault were dashed to pieces
against the rocks, full fifty leagues south of Fort Caro-
line. The men escaped only with their lives.
This disaster gave an entirely new aspect to the for-
tunes of Melendez. Without knowing the extent of
Ribault's misfortune, he at least knew, from the violence
and long continuance of the storm, that many days must
elapse before Ribault could return to his colony ; and of
this conviction he availed himself with that promptness
and boldness which distinguished his character, and
which had shone more worthily in the prosecution of any
other labor. With a fanatical indifference to toil, he led
five hundred picked troops, overland through the lakes,
wastes and forests which divided St. Augustine from
Fort Caroline, and was sheltered from sight in the forests
which surround it, before Laudonniere had a suspicion of
his having left St. Augustine. Cruel and dark, if not
strange, was the superstition which seems to have clouded